We all saw this coming, right? The answer to the Boston Red Sox problem at third base was right before our eyes.

All the Red Sox had to do was combine two players – one a light-hitting shortstop who batted .083 in the majors last year, the other a light-hitting utility player who seemed stuck in the minors with his .235 career average.

Together, Deven Marrero and Tzu-Wei Lin have been magic for the Red Sox, almost making the $95 million man, Pablo Sandoval, forgettable.

I say almost because the Red Sox still must figure out what to do with Sandoval and the remaining $49 million on his contract.

Meanwhile, Marrero and Lin provide stellar defense – not only at third but anywhere else, filling in at second base or shortstop. Somehow their bats are working just fine. Marrero’s average is only .225, but he’s .361 against left-handers. Heading into Saturday’s game, he was batting .448 over his last 10 games.

At least Marrero, who will be 27 next month, has major league experience. What can you say about Lin, 23, who never played above Double-A?

Called up June 24, mainly for insurance and pinch running, Lin is batting .313 through 13 games with a .436 on-base percentage. He hasn’t made an error compared to Sandoval’s five in 29 games.

Lin always has been a good fielder and he got hot at the plate in Portland this year (.302 average). But no one predicted this in the majors.

“He’s been a surprise,” Sea Dogs Manager Carlos Febles said. “I don’t think the big league team was expecting him to do what he’s doing right now. I couldn’t be prouder for that kid.”

Lin has fit right in.

“He’s doing a great job,” said Boston utility player Brock Holt, who was with Portland on a rehab stint this week. “He’s a good kid. Works hard. It’s fun to see guys come up and impact the game.”

Entering Saturday, Lin has reached base in eight straight games.

Red Sox Manager John Farrell called Lin “a great boost. Tzu-Wei has injected a lot here. … We recognize it.

“We’ve had conversations about it as we start to see who’s coming back to us on rehab assignments. Sometimes you don’t want to disrupt a good thing and clearly, he and (Marrero) and what they’ve done at third base has given us a lot of momentum in that bottom third (of the lineup).”

Sandoval’s rehab – from an ear infection – can run until July 17.

So what are the Red Sox to do? Boston has potentially six or seven third basemen – Marrero, Lin, Sandoval, Holt, Jhonny Peralta, Rafael Devers and TBTF (To Be Traded For). The options:

n Follow the money. The Red Sox could give Sandoval another chance in the majors, hoping he finds that magic – and because the $49 million left on his contract is a lot to throw away. Sandoval is known as a clutch hitter but his last postseason play was three years ago. And his game has dropped off plenty since then.

How many more chances can you give Sandoval? If you’re going to keep putting him on the disabled list, you might as well let him go.

n Stick with the kids. Marrero and Lin are hot right now. The realist (skeptic?) wonders if they can keep it up. Major league pitchers are likely to make adjustments on Lin. How will both Marrero and Lin hold up in the stretch run, let alone the postseason?

n Holt and company. Maybe Brock Holt is the answer, with Marrero spelling him against left-handers. Holt brings experience, but there’s the concern about his recovery from vertigo.

n Here’s Jhonny. The Red Sox signed Peralta, 35, to a minor league deal, wondering if he had anything left. In half a season with the Cardinals last year, he batted .260 with a .718 OPS, but dropped to .212/.622 this year before St. Louis waived him. He’s batting .232/.616 in 15 games with Pawtucket. If Boston had no other options, then maybe Peralta gets a shot. But Boston has options.

n Try Devers. With a .300/.944 line in Portland, Devers is intriguing. But let’s see him for a month in Triple-A before thinking about a call-up.

n Make a deal. Earlier this year, I mentioned Mike Moustakas of Kansas City as a target, but the Royals are back in contention. Maybe go for Todd Frazier of the White Sox, an impending free agent with a history (40 home runs last year), but currently struggling (.216 average, but still with 16 homers).

Boston should try to get Frazier if the cost isn’t too high. Use him with Holt. If they don’t work out, you can always turn back to the kids.

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

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Twitter: @ClearTheBasesdr